Amazing Spider-Man 129 Cover Art: $2,000,000 in Hype?

by Patrick Bain
ASM129OriginalArtFromTMZ-208x300 Amazing Spider-Man 129 Cover Art: $2,000,000 in Hype?

Image from TMZ.com

I’m not saying it couldn’t happen, but let’s say I am cautiously skeptical.  You have probably heard by now that the original cover art for Amazing Spider-Man #129 will be auctioned off later this year beginning in November.  The pre-auction hype machine rung up an appraised value of two million dollars U.S.  That’s not rupees, pesos, or even Canadian dollars.  So, if you have two million dollars tied up in a CD or bond about to mature, should you bid on Amazing Spider-Man #129 cover art?  Let’s explore the merits and figure out if that’s what it would take to own the most important Punisher art ever drawn.

A Little Background on Amazing Spider-Man 129

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Amazing Spider-Man 129 cover by Ross Andru and John Romita, Sr.

In 1974, the Punisher debuted inside and on the cover of ASM 129.  When Frank Castle, aka the Punisher, first appeared, he wanted Spider-Man dead.  Though one might argue the Punisher made an honest mistake, that makes him at least an antagonist for our Friendly Neighborhood hero.   Although the Punisher had good reasons for his vendetta against the lawlessness, his early incarnations made him a borderline villain.

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Punisher – a dark superhero movie before it was the norm.

Shortly after his introduction, Castle took the Marvel Universe to new heights in the role of anti-hero.  That popularity ensured Punisher got his own title and mini-series.  He even starred in some forgettable feature films.  The first of which starred a young Dolph Lundgren.

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Spider-Man vs. Spider-Clone

The Punisher wasn’t the only thing significant about Amazing Spider-Man #129.  It also featured the first appearance of the Jackal.  The Jackal’s direct contribution to the history of Spider-Man is minimal compared to the by-product of that storyline.  Notoriously, Jackal cloned Peter Parker creating the showdown between Spider-Man and Spider-Clone!  Climaxing in ASM 149, I credit that Spider-Man story arc as my personal favorite.

Is the art worth a couple million bucks?

Before going on, as a person who wrote a couple comic art price guides, amazing and outlandish sale prices for original art fuels interest in my books.  That said, I’ve always taken a view that I wanted to present unbiased critical analysis. Properly presenting information to both buyers and sellers is my ultimate goal.  That brings us to the question, does Amazing Spider-Man 129 original cover art merit a $2,000,000 price tag?  To answer that question, we need to review comparable sales from the past.

A few rabbit holes in the TMZ article

Sorry, I have to take a rabbit hole since the TMZ article left some holes in its short discussion.  A few missing points from the TMZ article bear heavily on the final value of the Amazing Spider-Man #129 cover art.  First, the article is very vague about the artist(s) that worked on the art.  In my opinion and based on my research, the two most important factors in determining the value of art include the artist who worked on it and the significance of the work.

In TMZ, it mentioned co-artist Gil Kane.  Legendary for both Marvel and DC, Gil Kane co-created Silver Age versions of Green Lantern and Atom.  Kane produced numerous memorable Spider-Man covers and interior pages as well.  Not mentioned by TMZ, John Romita, Sr. also contributed to the iconic artwork in this article.  How much of this artwork is by John Romita, Sr., one of the most highly demanded Spider-Man artists?  Did he contribute some preliminary layouts only?  Did Romita add finishing inks?  Perhaps he did no more than tweak a few heads or hands.  The question of Romita’s contribution is significant!

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Todd McFarlane original cover art sold for $657,250

Another hole left unfilled by TMZ: valid comparables to the Punisher artwork.  The article said for context to consider that a copy of Action Comics #1 (the comic book not the art) sold for 3 million dollars.  Not a good comparison.  The article also referenced modern artwork by Todd McFarlane that sold for over $600K.  That comparison is worth discussing but I don’t think it is among the better comparisons.

Good Comparisons to Gil Kane’s Spider-Man #129 Cover

When assessing art by a specific artist, reviewing other art sales by that artist is always a good starting point.  Particularly, I look at art by that artist for that character from that time period, when available.  Gil Kane has multiple cover sales for Spider-Man from the mid-seventies.  The three most recent sales include

  • ASM 98 (1971) Inks by Frank Giacoia, sold in 2015 for $179,250.  This was the infamous Harry Osborne drug story that was NOT approved by the Comics Code Authority.
  • ASM 151 (1975) Inks by John Romita, Sr., sold in 2016 for $155,350.  Reviewers described this cover as one of Spidey’s most iconic, though I don’t agree.  It is significant that it also represents a Kane/Romita collaboration.
  • ASM 150 (1975) Inks by Frank Giacoia, sold in 2020 for $69,000.  This landmark cover featured Spider-Man pitted against three of his fiercest foes while struggling to maintain his sanity.  This story concluded the original clone saga and is my personal favorite.

All of those sale prices are significantly less than two million.  Let’s search for some other reasons why the art in question could merit the super-price.  As mentioned earlier, John Romita Spider-Man art enjoys tremendous demand.  Two recently sold Spider-Man vs. Kingpin covers from the sixties fetched $300K on average.  The 2020 sale featured the first cover appearance of Kingpin in issue 51, but it wasn’t a great Spidey picture.  One of the most memorable stories in Spider-Man history is the ‘Night that Gwen Stacy Died’ in ASM 121.  The cover for that comic fetched $286,800 in 2013.  Topping all others, the cover art for ASM 100 (landmark iconic cover from 1971) sold for $478,000 in 2018.

It’s Time to do some Math

In the Comic Art Trends Price Guides, I talk about Compounded Growth Rate (CGR).  Think about it like appreciation of an investment.  Suppose ASM 100 is a good comparable at $500K.  Then in two years, the value of ASM 129 doubled not once but twice to be worth two million dollars today.  If one says that even though ASM 100 is older and memorable, it is not as key as Punisher’s first appearance, then let’s consider ASM 121, the death of Gwen Stacy.  If the Punisher cover is similar to the ASM 121 cover (which is ALL Romita art), then it would have been worth roughly $300K in 2013.  Calculating the Compounded Growth Rate from 2013 to 2020, that comes to over 30% annual growth.  While not unheard of, that is an unnatural growth rate over an extended period of time.  Even a million-dollar sales price would require a CGR of 18.8% over seven years.  As mentioned before, I’m skeptical.  But could it happen in an auction setting, all it takes is two Punisher fans that absolutely MUST own that art.  Certainly, hype goes a long way towards generating that interest!

Note for the interested:  I’m constantly seeking more transparency in sales prices for original art.  If, in fact, the cover art for Amazing Spider-Man #129 previously sold for a phenomenal price, please make it known and authenticate the sale!

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2 comments

Paul Kosnik November 8, 2020 - 9:33 am

Great analysis as usual but i don’t think you account for the added premium this art could bring because of some factors you don’t discuss in detail. This being not only the first appearance of the Punisher, but the first cover appearance and a very iconic cover. It has been consistently voted one of the most iconic Spider-man and one of the most iconic Marvel covers of all time. It is also published in the list of 100 most iconic marvel comics of all time–a distinction at least some of the other issues you mention as comps don’t share. It is also historically very relevant, being on the most important marvel bronze age books and critical in ushering in the era of the anti-hero which defined the genre for some time. For these reasons, i think this book warrants a premium over the other comps you discuss, and therefore this original art will warrant a premium over the other art you cite. At any rate, please keep up the insightful work and looking forward to seeing this cross the auction block!

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Patrick Bain November 8, 2020 - 8:41 pm

Very good discussion points Paul. I certainly agree that it has the iconic wow factor that could push it way up. If you have a link to the list of 100 most iconic Marvel covers, please reply with the link. I would be curious to see what else is on the list. My point in including Spider-Man 121 is that it certainly rates as one of the most memorable Spider-Man stories. I think if the cover of ASM 122 was used for the Death of Gwen Stacy story rather than the big question mark, I would say that would rate among the top few Spider-Man covers because of the connection between powerful art and provocative story. I agree, very curious about what the final sale price may be.

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